The Black Liberation Collective protest at Harbord and St. George. Emma Compeau/THE VARSITY

Members of the Black Liberation Collective – Canada (BLC) shut down an intersection at UTSG on March 15 in protest. Their demonstration was scheduled to coincide with the university’s 189 birthday.

“Let’s not allow this institution [to] celebrate 189 years of mistreating Black students and Black academics without speaking out,” read part of the event’s Facebook page. 

BLC members and supporters also ran a social media campaign to raise awareness. Students shared their experiences of anti-black racism using the hashtag #hbdUofT: the same hashtag that the university used to promote their birthday festivities.

Demonstrators took to the intersection of Harbord and St. George around noon and succeeded in blocking traffic in the area. According to the group’s Facebook page, the demonstration was a reaction in part to the university’s lack of response to demands presented in December 2015. 

These demands include ending the funding freeze on the Transitional Year Programme, a program “gifted to the University of Toronto from the Black community,” as well as a call to address the underrepresentation of black faculty and students.

The BLC asked for the development of a plan to fund a standalone African and Caribbean studies department. 

“Despite the good news story of the University of Toronto agreeing to collect race-based data (one of the 10 demands of the Collective), the University has blocked members of the collective from being part of the working group and [has] ignored the remainder of the demands,” the BLC said in a statement. “Though they committed to responding to the full spectrum by early January, they did not. They ignored our emails, until mid-February, where they denied ever agreeing to respond.”

Members of the BLC declined The Varsity’s multiple requests for comment, alleging that The Varsity is anti-black and has failed to take steps to combat its racism.

The BLC’s next course of action at U of T is to hold an event called Being Black at U of T: Discussion & Strategizing on April 1.

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